Lateral (or horizontal) gene transfer is the transmission of genetic information by means other than direct inheritance from an ancestor. Lateral gene transfers are recognized as an important mechanism of genomic and phenotypic evolution in prokaryote but their roles in multicellular eukaryotes is poorly known. We have shown that up to 3.3 % of protein-coding genes in root-knot nematodes are from non animal origin and were most likely acquired via lateral transfers. Most of these genes have undergone duplications and gained introns since their acquisition. Besides contributing to the genome composition of root-knot nematodes, these genes have probably played important roles in the emergence of plant-parasitism. Indeed, several genes acquired via lateral transfers are involved in crucial processes linked to parasitism such as degradation of the plant cell wall, modulation of plant defense, establishment of a feeding site and the synthesis or processing of nutrients. Lateral gene transfers have thus significantly impacted both the genome composition and biology of these parasitic nematodes, highlighting their overlooked importance in animals.
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